When we received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder for our 3 ½ year old daughter, our first reaction was confusion: like most parents, we had a terribly inaccurate image of what a child with autism was like, and Alicia didn’t seem to fit that picture. As we learned more, we realized the ways in which the diagnosis made sense, but as we waited for Alicia’s first day at Stepping Stones we found ourselves wondering: how much help could they really provide? My tendency when faced with something unexpected is to research it within an inch of its life, but none of the books I found seemed to describe our daughter. So how could Stepping Stones help a child who was not that different from the other kids… but different enough that we could see trouble ahead?
On Alicia’s first day, everyone laughed about how easy it was for me to leave her; I had planned to stay, but after twenty minutes it was obvious I was just in the way! Alicia loved every one of the Autism Support Workers she spent time with, and she thrived on the hours of one-on-one work every day. Soon, we had a much better picture of her strengths and her weaknesses, the things that worked and the things that didn’t. We were amazed to see differences in her within weeks of starting the program, as she started relating to us and others around her in a whole new way.
As Alicia progressed through her programs and I started telling friends about what she was learning, the comment I heard most often was, “Every kid could use this!” Alicia learned so many social skills that most kids have to pick up on their own: polite ways to greet people, ways to ask friends to play, questions you can ask to start a conversation. She practiced academic skills as well, to make the transition to kindergarten easier. Throughout, we had regular contact with Alicia’s Clinical Supervisor; whenever we had a question or a concern, we heard back promptly with suggestions and ideas. For the most part, though, we just got to enjoy watching her learn and grow with her Stepping Stones friends and teachers. And when the time came for kindergarten, we had a few worries, but mostly we felt confident that she was ready to take on the next big challenge.
Alicia is always going to march to her own drummer and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Stepping Stones helped her learn how to join in with others when she needs or wants to, so that she can pursue any dream that she has for her life. Today, Alicia is loving kindergarten; she comes off the bus happy every day, ready to tell us the newest thing she’s learned. Thanks to the help she had from Stepping Stones, the transition has mostly been easy and fun. So no matter what got your family to your child’s diagnosis, or what challenges you’re facing in the months and years ahead, I can promise that Stepping Stones has plenty to offer for you and for your child.